Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength Review

Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength

61.6% abv

Score:  91/100


On the windswept and storm battered shores of Islay a small peat fire smolders near the treeline.  The Sound of Islay smashes the rocky coasts of Islay and Jura, yet neither rain nor salty sea spray can douse this flame.  A quaich is passed around the fire from person to person.  The warming uisge beatha being sipped from the vessel, named for the rushing torrent which passes between the islands, is ‘Caol Ila’.
Are we on the same page now?
This whisky is quite simply one of the truest expressions of the Islay malt I have ever come across.  Intricate…delicate…immediately identifiable and ferociously intense.  The most challenging thing about this whisky is that even at cask strength of 61.6% abv, it retains that signature Caol Ila delicacy.

My initial impressions on the nose were how subtle this was.  On first pour I honestly could not believe this was over 60%.  The complex delivery of pepper and coffee, malted toffee and chocolate, iodine, salt and citrus is sallied forth on a bed of gorgeous peat smoke.  Discerning these notes takes time and patience in allowing the whisky to breathe.  The intensity slowly builds in the glass until finally it runs over, allowing hints as to just how immense this is.

Slow olfactory development aside, it absolutely explodes on the palate.  Now this is more along the lines of what I expected from an Islay malt at full volume.  This is like gargling diamonds; the utmost beauty but sharp enough to cut glass.  The flavors arrive in tendrils that tickle at the back of your throat before tickling your mind, all the while working to foil attempts at dissection.  Hints of smoked and salted beef…lemon pepper cedar-smoked fish…chocolate with chili pepper…iodine and peat smoke.  There’s a slightly malty edge too.

The finish is stunning, really.  Like nothing I’ve tried.  There are notes that make me think of a dawn fire, lingering with a beautiful burn and fading in a cherry citric barley denouement.

The sheer immensity of this one is mindblowing.  Something akin to pouring salt water over a peat fire to extinguish the flames.


Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

2 thoughts on “Caol Ila Natural Cask Strength Review

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